5 is too young for motorcycles

January 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A five-year-old girl riding a 50cc motorbike died when it revved and she panicked, crashing into a paddock fence.

Coroner Carla na Nagara said the death of Sarah MacDonald in Tapawera was sad reminder of how quickly things can go wrong for such young riders of motorbikes.

Sarah died on April 29, 2012 and the coroner has now released her findings that she died from serious neck and spinal injuries. 

It was her first ride on the family’s 50cc KTM motorbike, although she had previously ridden another 50cc motorbike and a 50cc quad bike, the coroner’s report said.

Her mother said she could ride the bike, and Sarah got her safety gear including a well fitting helmet.  

Her stepfather John took her outside and taught her about the bike.

After practising they went into a paddock and he described how she was ”just cruising and was slowing down on corners” and he was proud that she was not getting carried away.

I think it is commendable to teach farm kids how to ride a bike on private land, before they can legally drive on public land. This happens in almost all farms, and is done well.

But I do have to say that I think five is just too young for a motorised bike of any sort.  I don’t know when the right age is, and it probably varies based on the maturity and strength of the child. But certainly well past five I would say.

No tag for this post.

45 Responses to “5 is too young for motorcycles”

  1. Viking2 (11,260 comments) says:

    Maybe, and now the nannies want car seats till age 12. FFS

    Children should have to travel in car seats until they turn 12, say researchers appalled at New Zealand’s child-injury levels.

    They describe government efforts to promote child safety in cars as “tepid” and say that, instead, the onus should also be on doctors and hospital staff to educate parents, who are often confused by the plethora of child restraints on the market.

    Last year, mandatory use of car restraints was extended, with all children required to use a seat until their 7th birthday.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/9644186/Car-restraint-age-must-rise

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. redqueen (519 comments) says:

    All they’re doing, Viking, is just making ordinary people into potential ‘criminals’. My wife informed me our kids have to be in full carseats until seven (I initially laughed, thinking she was joking). If they push it to 12, bugger them and bring on the revolution! ;) At some point, personal (or, in this case, parental) responsibility (and choice) do matter. In the case of this post, it’s sad that things can go wrong in life, but the parents sound like they took appropriate precautions beyond simply keeping the child in a bubble (although 5 does, personally, sound a bit young for me).

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Had grandchildren proficient on small quads and bikes before they were 7, and if they are watched, rev limiters used as necessary, there should be no problems. Have seen a lot more accidents with small ponies, which are a lot harder to monitor than quads and bikes. It is a terrible thing to see accidents that happen such as this, but once again, that is life!

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Mobile Michael (430 comments) says:

    RQ – a booster is fine, as long as its approved by one of the relevant standards. Also the age is 7, or if a restraint seat is available then it’s 8.

    I think your making the mistake of picturing a full sized motorbike. Special mini motorbikes are made for children as young as 5 and are appropriate for children that size. The issues here are probably more complex like teaching methods and the area used being safe until control and confidence are gained.

    A five year old is capable of riding a bicycle fast enough to have fatal accident if the collide with something solid. Should we ban kids bicycles as well?

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Terrible tragedy but totally disagree that 5 is too young.

    The local mini motor cross track has a girls class where there are a couple of 4 years olds who rip around faster than many adults could. They’ve got as much skill and vision as anyone spending the first few months on a mx bike.

    These are kids FFS and rural kids at that. Why not ban them at the same time from riding ponies (far heavier and more unpredictable than a mx bike) and shut down the country’s pony clubs.

    Before Christmas we were told that our rural school was one of only 3 in the region that allowed the kids to climb trees in the school grounds. Part of growing up is testing yourself and your boundaries and we are progressively stripping away those lessons from our kids

    Vote: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. James Stephenson (2,087 comments) says:

    But I do have to say that I think five is just too young for a motorised bike of any sort.

    Oh nonsense. You can't go around making sweeping judgements like that on the back of a single event, however much of a tragedy it is. That's the kind of attitude that's seen trees chopped down at schools to stop kids climbing and bullrush banned.

    Anyway, Ben Townley (http://www.bentownleymx.com/index.html) started at the age of 3.

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. big bruv (13,552 comments) says:

    “but totally disagree that 5 is too young”

    Are you totally insane?

    A five year old has yet to learn how to ride a bloody push bike and the dynamics that go with that (i.e experiencing a fall, just how fast they can go etc) without putting those same kids on or in a motorised vehicle.

    Kids can, and should be exposed to the real world, I am not one who thinks they should be wrapped in cotton wool but to suggest that putting a 5 year old on a motor bike is a good idea is simply idiotic.

    Vote: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. ManuT (45 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t normally comment on such a tragedy but I noticed once again there is a ‘step father’ involved. He may well be an ok guy but there is a real father somewhere who has lost his 5 year old daughter.

    Would the real father have let his very young daughter ride a motorbike? probably not. Do step parents show the same love and concern for other peoples children? maybe some do but history tells us many don’t.

    Again this may not be the circumstance here but at some point non custodial parents need to be shown respect and consulted before their children are put in danger.
    Yes I expect lots of thumbs down today.

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Chuck Bird (4,759 comments) says:

    Some top motocross riders started at a very young age. I have heard of a number of fatalities when young children were allowed to ride full sized quads. This is the first fatality I have heard of where a 5 year old was riding a small 2 wheel motor bikes. There is not way we can prevent all tragedies where young people are killed especially with legislation.

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. Pete George (23,299 comments) says:

    I agree with big bruv on this.

    I think it was five year old who died in a quad bike accident in Southland a couple of weeks ago.

    It’s far too big a risk for young children, and I think most parents would recognise this. Especially those who’s kids have been killed or badly injured.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Longknives (4,678 comments) says:

    The fact that week after week we hear about little kids dying on quad bikes and motorbikes would suggest that they shouldn’t be riding them..
    I’m with Bruv- Little kids simply don’t have the cognitive ability and skills to handle such a thing.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. scrubone (3,082 comments) says:

    A five year old has yet to learn how to ride a bloody push bike and the dynamics that go with that (i.e experiencing a fall, just how fast they can go etc) without putting those same kids on or in a motorised vehicle.

    That makes no sense. You’ve just been told that there are even younger kids who ride these very competently, and now you’re saying it’s impossible for that to happen?

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. James Stephenson (2,087 comments) says:

    The fact that week after week we hear about little kids dying on quad bikes and motorbikes would suggest that they shouldn’t be riding them..

    They shouldn’t be riding adult-sized machines, for sure, but I’d have my boys on one of these in an instant if I had a paddock for a back garden.

    http://www.suzuki.co.nz/Motorcycle/Youth/DR-Z70/

    I’ve seen adults, on a bike for the first time, do the panic thing with the throttle. The sad irony is that if this kid had been on a more powerful bike, she’d probably have flipped off the back and been completely unhurt.

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. Chuck Bird (4,759 comments) says:

    PG, there is a big difference between a 5 year old riding a full sized quad and a small motorbike designed for children that size. Banning parents from allowing 5 year old to ride and compete on these small bikes or small go carts is more nanny state like banning parents from smacking naughty kids.

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. itstricky (1,693 comments) says:

    Disagree with posters about child seats. Small children are physically too small for seat belts and have no control over what happens when a car crashes. That’s not about “wrapping them in a bubble” it is just common sense and physics.

    Why will “the revolution start”? I mean booster seats are mentioned above, it’s not like they are expensive and often community groups subsidise them and car seats. Where is the reasoning for your actual objection to the use of appropriate padding until a child is physically big enough to fit under a seat belt securely?

    Getting back on topic and as a parallel to the motorbike incident – a five year old doesn’t have the physical strength nor the physical experience and quick coordination (cf. It said she “panicked”) for something like this.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. itstricky (1,693 comments) says:

    I’ve seen adults, on a bike for the first time, do the panic thing with the throttle

    And yet nobody has died from that. Because they have the physical presence of mind, strength and coordination to get it under control and to bail the bike if they are heading straight for a wall at speed. Learn to ride a push bike first.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Pete and big bruv. As another poster pointed out, these bikes have throttle limiters. You set them right and a kid learning doesn’t go much faster than walking pace.

    As a cyclist myself I’d strongly argue a MX bike is safer than a push bike, especially downhill and uphill. Better brakes and for the kid the mx bike is largely a point and steer excercise without having to worry about the pedalling effort.

    Pete- I fundamentally disagree with your implication that parents who let their kids ride THE RIGHT motorbikes (including correct safety gear) is irresponsible. It’s selective and almost certainly ignorant of the relative risk. Do you say the same of parents who let their kids ride their push bikes on a suburban road (that shit is legal and it’s way, way down the list of things I’d be supervising my kid doing)? What about the thousands of parents who every weekend put 5 and 6 years olds on 200kg of pony with a mind of its own and a bigger height to fall from. What about the supervised 4 year old on a scooter or bike losing control in a suburban driveway and veering onto the road (something I’ve seen happen during my days in suburbia).

    While you are at it Pete try calling the boaties who drag those donuts behind their boats at 40km/ hour with their kids wearing life jackets irresponsible. Ever hit the water the wrong way at that speed?

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. Harriet (4,614 comments) says:

    LOL

    Whatshisname the formula one car racing driver has just hit a tree on snow skis whilst wearing a helmet – so 5ylds surely won’t be able to do that now either then ?

    The government should stop fucken regulating parents lives and instead inform them better – as Mums and dads are as good as you’ll ever get IN THE DAILY LIVES of children! :cool:

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. gump (1,547 comments) says:

    Children develop at different rates.

    The parents should use their judgment as to the appropriate age to begin.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Also worth point out in this debate that there are 50cc bikes and 50cc bikes.

    The KTM involved is this tragedy is a very different beast to a Yamaha PeeWee 50. Its like comparing a Toyota Camry (the PW50) with an Impreza WRX (the KTM)- both have 2 litre engines but are very different machines when you apply the throttle.

    I make the point because it goes to the blanket (and in my view ill-informed) statements being made here about riding an MX bike in a paddock being inherently dangerous.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Harriet – good point on the skiing. I left that off the list of PG’s “activities that should qualify as irresponsible parenting.” All those rocks and drop offs (sadly tree skiing isn’t something we can do in NZ).

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. Chuck Bird (4,759 comments) says:

    I wonder what self professed expert on parenting, Kyle MacDonald would think about this. He is of the view that psychotherapists whether they are parents or not know more about how to raise children that the child’s own parents.

    He is similar to the global warming alarmist. He believes the science has has been settled on smacking and that even a light or moderate smack to the bum can damage a child for life. Have a look at he blog. He gives the impression he will allow someone to debate but then he blocks my response when I mention Peter Ellis. He is no doubt sensitive to this as it appears this dude is part of the sexual abuse industry.

    https://www.facebook.com/psychotherapy.org.nz?fref=ts

    http://psychotherapy.org.nz/family_first/

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  23. labrator (1,846 comments) says:

    You should totally ban this kid, he has no idea what he is doing apart from the fact he can probably ride better than you. Only nanny state interventionists think that every accident is preventable. If you want to be the best in the world, or even relatively skilled, the motor skills required are best learnt as young as possible.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  24. Fentex (909 comments) says:

    I suspect 5 is too young. I did a similar thing on a small motorbike when I was about 10 – fortunately for me no fence where I went off and eventually lost control.

    I read that article and it seemed like considered precautions were taken and it may just be that this is an unlucky accident that could have happened to someone much older – what ought to have been a rough landing for someone learning to ride and would have been nearly every time had the misfortune of being worse.

    On holiday with my girlfriend once riding a scooter around a tropical island I tried to teach her to ride it and she did have a slow tumble from it – in some minority of cases someone simply falling at the slowest speed could whip/bend their neck tragically (helmets can’t stop everything).

    I continue to suspect 5 is too young to be in control of machinery of almost any description, but this seems more like frighteningly bad luck than careless irresponsibility.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  25. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Based on some of the sentiments expressed above, five is too young to walk. They might fall over.

    Another sorry example of our broken spirited feminised society.

    Too much Yin.

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  26. mister nui (1,006 comments) says:

    DPF, can you tell me why your liberalism in this post is completely opposite to your liberalism in this post: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/01/in_support_of_true_capitalism.html

    It’s not up to you, or your statist friends to decide what is the right age for our children to do things.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  27. RRM (9,638 comments) says:

    FFS libertarians – I don’t think the coroner (or DPF) is calling for more state regulation??

    All she said is basically what this parent would have said too… that the tragedy that took place was not a particularly fucking surprising outcome of the decision to let a very small child ride a motorcycle.

    There’s a difference between saying something is a stupid idea and saying something should not be allowed; it’s not a particularly subtle difference, it astonishes me that so many of the smart successful kiwibloggers fail to see this.

    But more to the point, it’s sad when Darwin’s law strikes the child of the person it should have been aiming at… :-(

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  28. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Will somebody pleeeeeeeease THINK OF THE CHILDREN !!!

    Kea is not a monster and this is sad. But risk taking is a healthy and neccasary part of human development. Unfortunately it does incur… risk.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  29. RRM (9,638 comments) says:

    Kea – Yes but there’s risk taking, and then there’s dumb risk taking, and there’s a difference ;-)

    My 9yo stepdaughter wanted to have a go with my little mig welder, after seeing me welding something up recently. I let her have a go, but I made sure she wore the helmet and gloves, and I gave her two old bolts to try to weld together, not the petrol tank of the project car.

    (She couldn’t do it BTW, but then her attempt wasn’t too much worse than my very first failed attempts once were!)

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  30. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    Actually, I’m with DPF on this – whilst there will always be exceptions, a normal, 5 year old kid wouldn’t have the cognitive skills / the maturity / whatever, to be able to handle an abnormal event – such as a motor bike revving and ‘taking off’… As such, I didn’t teach any 5 year old kids to ride a jet ski. Or to shoot a firearm. Or to use a circular saw. Or to use a lathe. Or to cut with a gas axe.

    Yes, the likes of the Scott Dixons of the world were racing karts around at 5 – but I’d suggest Scott’s skillset was taken into account by Ron and Glenys long before they allowed him to don a helmet. He was, clearly, an exception.

    I’m not suggesting kids should be wrapped in cotton wool (far from it) but a 5 year old on a motor bike?

    Nah… not for me.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  31. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Elaycee

    With the exception of karts – every example you give is is a kid playing with something that is specifically designed for an adult.

    Before passing judgment, drop by the local mini MX club and watch the kids race to see the skill sets (and the safety)

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  32. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    @Yogibear: So the 50cc KTM motor bike the girl was using, is specifically designed for a 5 year old???

    Nah – of course it wasn’t. The article says it was the family bike.

    And not a mini MX.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  33. gump (1,547 comments) says:

    In the Coroner’s own words:

    “There is nothing to suggest that there was a lack of care or oversight on the day the accident happened.”

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  34. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Do some research Elaycee before wading in (yes I realise its a comments section in a blog and actually knowing about the topic is optional).

    The 50cc KTM is a kids bike (did you think of the scenario that the little girl had brothers and sisters who had also used it). An adults bike would be 250cc and the 9-12 years olds run on 65 and 80cc bikes.

    If you read my earlier post though, its a totally different beast as a kids bike. Its a competition bike for kids who are experienced racers and have graduated from bikes like the Yamaha Peewee 50

    But its still a bike specifically designed for 4-10 years olds (and weighs less than 40kg)

    http://www.ktm.com/nz/mx.html

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  35. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    Each to their own, Yogibear – if you think it’s OK for your 5 year old to ride a motor bike – then go for it.

    I can only hope your own experience won’t match the tragedy that is the subject of this thread.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  36. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    So Elaycee – you get your facts wrong and then play the tut tut card.

    Classy

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  37. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Elaycee

    Like I say. Drop by the mini MX track and watch these kids. You might be surprised.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  38. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    @Yogibear: Perhaps you should have read the article for yourself:

    Coroner na Nagara said it was “entirely possible given her age and inexperience she simply panicked, and lacked the maturity and presence of mind to respond appropriately to the situation she was in”. There was nothing to suggest there had been a lack of care or oversight on the day the crash happened, she said. “But it is noted that these vehicles do pose significant risk to young riders when things go wrong.” It was a “sad reminder” of how quickly and tragically things could go wrong for such young riders of motorised vehicles, Coroner na Nagara said.

    The Coroner used the terms… “lacked maturity”… “…age and inexperience”… “…these vehicles pose significant risk to young people”…

    And, in answer to DPF’s suggestion that a 5 year old is too young to use a motor bike, I said he’s got it 100% right.

    Now, why don’t you stop pushing at doors marked ‘Pull’?

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  39. nickb (3,675 comments) says:

    It’s nanny state gone mad. If I want to let my 6 year old fire an RPG or use dynamite who the hell is John KEy to tell me otherwise?

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  40. gump (1,547 comments) says:

    @Elaycee

    The child was garroted by a wire fence wrapping around her neck.

    The motorcycle wasn’t the cause of her death – she could just as easily been killed by running into the wire, or ridding a bicycle into the wire.

    It’s a freak accident that nobody foresaw. As the Coroner noted, there was no lack of care or oversight.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  41. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    @gump: Agree. No lack of care has been suggested.

    But the cause of the accident wasn’t the construction of the fence, it was the 5 year old kid’s inability to handle a motor bike. She lost control.

    A point clearly lost on some commenters.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  42. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Keep squirming Elaycee.

    You tried to prove a point by pointing the finger at the bike. You got that totally wrong so you try another tack.

    I agree that there is risk on riding a bike. But by your twisted logic when the coroners findings come out on the poor kid that suffocated this week when the hole he dug at the beach collapsed, , you’d be tut tutting parents who take their kids to the seaside.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  43. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    No squirming here, YB. But at least we agree there is a risk with a 5 year old on a motorbike. A risk I wouldn’t be prepared to take. But as I said earlier, each to their own.

    Your second comment simply doesn’t warrant a response.

    But keep pushing the doors marked ‘Pull” – you’ll finally work it out. 8O

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  44. Yogibear (348 comments) says:

    Elaycee if you have kids, I’m assuming you don’t take them near water or let them interact with the road corridor.

    More kids are involved in drownings annually than 10 years of mini mx riding, let alone driveway incidents etc.

    In most cases there is a doting and loving parent nearby. In most cases, the terms immaturity, inexperience, lack of physical ability etc apply equally as they do to this tragedy.

    This naturally leads to the conclusion that you are either a totally consistent person devoid of fun and adventure or take a hypocritical (or at least, uninformed as per your comment on the bike involved) approach to relative risk.

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  45. V (691 comments) says:

    Citing some motorcross riders that started young as reason that 5yr olds on motorbikes is OK is pure selection bias – useless without knowing the rate of all the other kids that start at the age either maim or kill themselves in accidents.

    As far as ACC stats go, it works out that something like 35 farmers/day fall off their bikes, so we’re not all the motorbike prodigies we think we are. And of course just like driving where 85% of people think they are better than the average driver some introspection is needed.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.